This is an unforgettable recreation of life in wartime, and of the tragic fate of Poland in the twentieth century: a novel about sabotage, betrayal and the terrible sadness of exile.
In 1940, during the Phoney War, a French destroyer blows up in the Firth of Clyde. The disaster is witnessed by Jackie, a young girl who, for a time, thinks she caused the explosion by running away that day from school; by her mother Helen, a spirited woman married to a dreary young officer; and by a Polish officer, whose country has just been erased from the map by Hitler and Stalin. Their lives, and the lives of many others, are changed by the death of the Fronsac.
This is a story about divided loyalties, treachery and exile; about people in flight from the destinies that seemed to be theirs before the war disrupted the world they knew.
Neal Ascherson is a journalist and writer. He reported from Asia, Africa and Central Europe for the Observer. He contributes regularly to the New York Review and the LRB. His books include Black Sea, Games with Shadows and The Polish August.